skin cancer among caucasians

skin cancer

There appears to be a strong correlation between the incidence of skin cancer and caucasians, especially those of Irish and Scottish decent. It is evident that people who have Irish or Scottish heritage, have lighter and fair skin, which is very sensitive to sun and it’s harmful and damaging rays. Those with darker skin, are less likely to have their skin burn in the sun; their darker pigment gives them an element of protection. Genetics would also be a major contributing factor for developing skin cancer. If one of our family members has been diagnosed with skin cancer, they can potentially pass that specific gene for developing skin cancer to their offspring, who in turn, may also pass the gene onto their offspring, and thus, the cycle continues. However, genetics alone does not determine whether or not one will develop skin cancer. Many human behaviors play a critical role in not only the development of cancers but also other conditions and diseases. The use of tanning beds for example, especially by younger girls, is an important behavior that is correlated to the development of skin cancer. One study showed that when asked if they had ever used a tanning bed, 21% of teenage girls admitted to using a tanning bed one or more times in the last year. Although it seems obvious that exposing one’s skin directly to UV rays is dangerous and can cause the development of cancer, it seems that more people are turning to tanning beds in order to achieve the desired “natural glow,” and are willing to risk developing skin cancer as well as damaging their skin in the process. Genetics and race are somewhat similar terms and are interconnected in their definition. Genetics can be defined through one’s genes-what makes up a particular person. Our genes are what give us the distinct pigment of our skin, and the color of our skin is how we classify one’s race. Race is a category based on how one looks on the outside. Race can also define a specific culture or way of life.

Portia T. Bradford, “Skin Cancer in Skin of Color.” Dermatology Nursing. 2009;21(4):170-77; 206, accessed July 11, 2014. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/712363

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Sultan Qiblawi says:

    Sarah, I think your post is very well thought out and I think that all of your claims have great support and logic. I would not have considered race and genetics to be the same thing, but the way you described race in your post makes me reconsider my reasoning. I think that you addressed everything that I would have if I was evaluating this case study. I do think it is important to note that lifestyle is a huge factor in caucasians developing skin cancer, but it seems that genetics are the largest risk factor in this particular disease. I think that racial categories are very important for studies like this and can give huge insight on the effects that certain genetic differences can have on human health. In this case study, the groups could be stratified by their race and the outcome of the study would allow us to see if there was a correlation between race (pigment of skin) and the prevalence of skin cancer within each race. I think grouping people by race is very important and can be useful in determining what can cause disease in different races and how susceptible a certain race group is to a certain disease. By evaluating studies in this fashion, we can find correlations between race and many diseases that prevalent in modern society. This is important because we can specialize a cure for each race and make treatment more personalized and effective.

  2. Alison Johnson says:

    I really like how you described race and genetics as somewhat similar terms. I would not have looked at it that way, though when you point out that our genetics are what gives us certain pigmentation, and in turn, a certain race, it makes complete sense. You mentioned that certain health problems, such as skin cancer can be carried down through genetics. Skin cancer is not what would normally come to mind when thinking about genetically inherited health problems, but it is a good example. Not only do genes play a crucial role in genetically inherited problems, but also the shared environment. Most people share a similar environment as their family members, and that can also affect their health. I also agree that humans play a critical role in the development of diseases and the status of their health. Not all factors of health are outside factors, but some parts of health can definitely be measured by the level of human interaction. When using racial categories in clinical studies, I think it varies on the importance depending on the study. For the example of skin cancer I think racial categories is a very important part of the clinical study. The prevalence rates between people vary drastically depending on the pigmentation in your skin.

  3. Alisyn Korpela says:

    I found this post very relatable and interesting. I am of Irish descent and have very fair skin, which has led to many incidences of burnt skin during the summer and vacations to the tropics. I thought you choose a good graph to support your argument, but you never addressed the obvious leading incidence of skin cancer among African American males. In your post you suggest that darker skin pigment leads to a decreased likelihood for sunburns of the skin and that this pigment type “gives them an element of protection.” I believe this to be true of dark skin pigment individuals, yet the data you provided suggests the opposite. It would have been interesting to see why this is the case for the results of that particular study.
    Your post describes that genetics and human behavior play a role in the development of skin cancer. I agree with this in that every individual’s actions affect their health, along with the possibility of diseases being passed down through genes. I thought the relationship between race and genes in this post was very interesting, suggesting that one’s genes are responsible for ones skin tone which is then responsible for their classification of race by society.
    I think that racial categories can be beneficial and irrelevant, depending on the particular clinical study being addressed. If genes don’t determine one’s race biologically, I think other factors should be studied in order to better understand racial health disparities, such as one’s culture, human behavior, and one’s environment.

  4. Connor DeMars says:

    I like the topic of this post since I am Irish and clearly by taking a look at your graph results, I am at a higher risk of getting skin cancer due to the pigmentation of my skin. I think you did a good job explaining the similarities between race and genetics. As you stated, genetics is what makes up a certain person and that gives us our skin color, which defines our race. I would not have thought about it this way, and it was a good point. I didn’t understand why the graph had African Americans as the second group most exposed to skin cancer. I don’t see why this is since you said that the darker your skin is, the less susceptible you are to skin cancer. I also liked how you talked about how behavioral patterns can have a large effect on the development of skin cancer. It’s not just the genetics and race of a person, because your actions will determine if you develop skin cancer or not. I think it depends on what study you are doing, but racial categories can be very important in clinical studies. Grouping people based on race in a clinical study in skin cancer for example, would offer a better way of talking about health discrepancies because certain races are more likely to develop skin cancer due to the pigmentation of their skin.

  5. Ashley Lathrop says:

    Great post Sarah. I understand what you are saying about genetics and race but I don’t agree that they are interconnected. I agree that race is a classification based on appearance but genetics, to me is more than just appearance. Two women with blonde hair and blue eyes can look alike but they aren’t genetically alike. I do like how you stated it though. It makes it much more understandable. I also like how you mentioned tanning beds as a large factor for skin cancer in Caucasian women. I am Caucasian and I used to tan while in high school along with my friends but I stopped. I know how bad it is for your health and I know it was for the huge influx in skin cancer. Also, the idea that African American women have darker skin and gives protection is interesting and something that sounds right and is interesting to me. I know African Americans can burn but I’m wondering how much damage it does compared to Caucasian women. The one thing I think about with skin cancer being linked to Caucasian population is that there might be other factors not brought into the picture. Skin cancer is based on skin color and therefore racializes the idea that if you are African American, you will not get skin cancer because your skin color is darker and therefore you are exempt from the disease.

  6. Meredith Joseph says:

    Looking at the graph you posted I was surprised to see how much more prevalent skin cancer is in men compared to women. I would assume women would be more likely to get skin cancer because it seems like they sun bath more and use tanning beds more than men do. That may just be a stereotype in my mind. Your definition of genetics and race seemed very clear and easy to understand the difference between. I like how you said genetics determines what skin pigment one has, but does not define ones race that is a new definition to me, and a very good one, I think. When you defined race as how one looks to the eye and the culture they are included in I agree, but would add in the way one identifies themselves as, not just how others view them. I feel that racial categories are important in clinical studies because that is how our culture identifies others and themselves. At the same time I also think more focus should be put on the genetics side of things because in the health field seeing someone’s interior body make up is how people are treated. Not by their outward image. Yes, race can play a factor into some health concerns, but the root of health issues is not within ones race it’s in their genes.

  7. Taylor Smith says:

    Although race is determined by one’s genetic makeup, in regards to the pigmentation of his/her skin, there is much more to genetics. I don’t think that it is correct to declare that they are “somewhat similar terms”, because one is simply an identification of a small fraction of the other. Although race plays an important role in the potential development of skin cancer, it is not as much of a deciding factor as the article makes it seem. Yes, Caucasians are much more likely to develop melanoma and other skin problems; however, that is not to say that it was the primary factor in if a person will develop one or more of these problems. The author did not mention anything about the usage of sun block, or the location ranges of victims, which would both have significantly higher data to show that race is a small factor in the science of skin cancer. For example, take a person with Scottish and Irish descent and placed them in, say, Alaska, where there is a lower exposure to the sun’s rays. This person uses the tanning bed on a regular basis. Now on the other hand, take someone with both Irish and Scottish descent, but Italian as well, and place them in Panama, near the equator where they use sunblock and wear protective clothing. The person with olive skin with Italian descent is still more likely to develop skin cancer due to the constant, basal exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays, in comparison to the Caucasian in Alaska using a tanning bed regularly. For this reason, I believe that the author is over-portraying the role of genetics and pigmentation in the occurrence of the disease(s).

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